Orson Welles' true feelings about his fellow Hollywood stars and directors have been laid bare in newly released audiotapes, in which he brands Sir Laurence Olivier "stupid" and James Stewart a "bad actor". The Citizen Kane actor/director rants openly about several big screen stars in the long-lost tapes, which were recorded in the early 1980s during candid conversations with his filmmaker friend Henry Jaglom.
In the chats, Welles calls Charlie Chaplin "arrogant", slams Joan Fontaine for having just "two expressions", and admits he didn't like horror icon Alfred Hitchcock: "I've never understood the cult of Hitchcock. Particularly the late American movies... Egotism and laziness... I saw one of the worst movies I've ever seen the other night (Rear Window)... Complete insensitivity to what a story about voyeurism could be. I'll tell you what is astonishing. To discover that (its star) Jimmy Stewart can be a bad actor... Even Grace Kelly is better than Jimmy."
Welles also mentions Marilyn Monroe and recalls, "I used to take her to parties before she was a star... I wanted to try and promote her career. Nobody even glanced at Marilyn," and elsewhere he rages, "I never could stand looking at Bette Davis, so I don't want to see her act."
Welles suffered a fatal heart attack in 1985 before the tapes could be used for a planned autobiography, and they have been kept in a garage until now.
The interviews are set to be published later this month (Jul13) in new book titled My Lunches with Orson by movie historian Peter Biskind.
He explains, "He's not the great director being interviewed by a starry-eyed journalist. He's speaking to a friend, and is therefore free to gossip... Welles comes off as a fascinating bundle of contradictions, at once belligerent and almost childishly vulnerable."
Since we’re doing a series on Francis Ford Coppola, it’s long past time we talk about what a director does. Before I read Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I had some vague notion that the director “made” a movie. That’s sort of true. But when one thinks of the specifics of making a movie – editing, design, cinematography – the director doesn’t do any of that. One of the reasons the “technical” categories in the Oscars won’t ever go away is because those “technical” categories honor the people who, you know, make movies. It would be like handing out awards for the best cars of the year, but only honoring the “professional drivers on a closed course.”
So if a director doesn’t shoot, cut, design or act, what does he do?
A director chooses a story to tell and outlines, to a greater or lesser degree of specificity, the vision for how that story will be told on screen. Then the director chooses collaborators. This is no mean feat. Choosing the right editor or cinematographer will make or break a film as much as choosing the right cast, and not everyone can match the right artist to the story he wants to tell. Once everyone’s been hired, the director conducts everyone in the realization of his vision.
Some directors, like David Lynch or Steven Spielberg, let the vision come together as they film. Other directors, like Stanley Kubrick or Douglas Sirk, are far more autocratic about the whole thing. Either way, realizing the vision of the movie, keeping everyone on the same page, moving from the micro- to the macro-, and pushing through to the end is really, really difficult.
A director must be a manager, a leader, a strategic organizer, a time manager, must have a rudimentary understanding of the jobs everyone around him is performing and be conscious of cash flow – all the while holding everyone involved to an artistic vision that perhaps only the director can see. On a shoestring budget with a cast of three shooting on DV in someone’s apartment, this can be difficult. Imagine what it’s like in the jungle with 300 people, millions of dollars, and no end in sight.
In Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind doesn’t paint a pretty picture of Francis Ford Coppola during the shooting of Apocalypse Now. Biskind outlines Coppola’s sexual dalliances, financial indulgences and artistic confusion. Apocalypse Now uses Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a starting point to create a morally responsible take on Vietnam. For real, without blinking. In the late '70s. That’s what Coppola wanted to do.
One of the big stories surrounding the production of Apocalypse Now is that all through shooting – which lasted over a year – Coppola didn’t have an ending. The original script by John Milius ended in a big battle, a traditional war story, good vs. evil ... that sort of thing. Coppola felt strongly that ending a movie about Vietnam like a conventional war story would be morally reprehensible and artistically corrupt, but he didn’t have an alternative – so he kept digging, exploring, searching, rewriting, and experimenting. Watch the movie and decide for yourself if he succeeded, but either way Coppola did what a director is supposed to do: stick to his vision and tell the truth.
A lot of the reportage on Coppola’s inability to find an ending during Apocalypse Now condemns him, but to me it shows him at his best as a director. He sticks to the vision. He sticks to what he feels like to be the artistic truth of the film, no matter what. He fights for the truth. In a cynical and decadent world, it sounds corny to say, but it is what gives his movies their individuality and strength – even the ones that don’t work for everyone.
At the end of Hearts of Darkness, a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, when the principle shooting’s done, there’s a cut to a title card that says “2 1/2 Years Later” and then we see the grand premier. It’s as if nothing happened in those two and a half years.
Well, what happened was something like four editors cut and re-cut the movie over and over and over again. They started out with 1.25 million feet of film. That’s 230 hours. All of that film got cut, re-cut, and cut again. And then Walter Murch went in and built the sound. None of the sound brought back from the jungle could be used, so Murch and his team had to invent the sound of the jungle, the river, the war scenes, and everything else from scratch. On top of that he layered synthetic effects, the music of The Doors, voiceover narration, and what would now be called ambient music. What Murch created was so in-depth, so complete, and contributed so much to the viewing experience of the film that it necessitated a new title for the credits: Sound Designer.
Between 1972 and 1979, Francis Ford Coppola made three major masterpieces and one minor one. He won five Academy Awards and the Palm d’Or twice. His movies made so much money and had such deep appeal that the studios had to redesign the way they distributed movies.
During post-production on Apocalypse Now, Coppola was so convinced that the movie would flop that he decided to make a romantic, happy movie about love that would help him make his money back. That movie was One From the Heart. You haven’t seen it, but it flopped so badly and bankrupted Coppola so deeply that it dictated Coppola’s artistic decisions for the next decade. What mistake did Coppola make with One From the Heart? The same mistake he had always made: he couldn’t help making a work of art.
Next week: One From the Heart.
In Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, writer Peter Biskind documents the Bonnie and Clyde veteran's high-profile romances with actresses Jane Fonda and Joan Collins, and spectacularly alleges he has slept with more than 12,000 women.
But Beatty's lawyer Bertram Fields insists previous reports confirming the book was sanctioned by the 72 year old are false - and he's warning fans and media outlets not to believe everything published in the new tome.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Fields says, "Mr. Biskind's tedious and boring book on Mr. Beatty was not authorised by Mr. Beatty and should not be published as an authorised biography. It contains many false assertions and purportedly quotes Mr. Beatty as saying things he never said.
"Other media should not repeat things from the book on the assumption that they are true or that the book is an authorised biography."
Beatty has enjoyed high profile romances with Madonna, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Joan Collins, Julie Christie and his current wife Annette Bening - but writer Peter Biskind claims the 72 year old secretly seduced thousands of women during his heyday.
In Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, Biskind estimates the actor has been with "12,775 women, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on."
Biskind, who wrote the biography after candid chats with the Bonnie and Clyde star, lifts the lid on his subject's many famous lovers, and his legendary stamina for sex.
The author claims older partner Joan Collins ditched Beatty because his insatiable appetite wore her out, and he only met his match when he met the much-younger Madonna on the set of 1990 movie Dick Tracy. The pair dated, but the Material Girl's close pal Sandra Bernhard reveals Beatty struggled to keep up with the party-loving pop star.
Bernhard tells Biskind, "We would taunt him, say things to make him feel uncomfortable. He was the perfect target, because he played the befuddled old man with her."
Biskind adds, "Beatty, a man who was accustomed to being worshipped by women, was on dangerous ground with Madonna."
Vincent D'Onofrio has played everything from a detective to a fisherman, a priest and an alien cockroach. Now he's about to play Harvey Weinstein.
According to Screen, the casting development emerged as 7th Level Entertainment Group announced it had signed a deal to support Yamani Pictures' 2010-15 feature slate with tours and events.
The film in which D'Onofrio would play the mogul is Down and Dirty, an adaptation of Peter Biskind's Hollywood tell-all.
Besides Down and Dirty, other titles on Yamani's 2010-11 production slate include Bill Condon's Richard Pryor film Is It Something I Said, starring Eddie Murphy, and Only the Hood Dies Young with Bruce Willis, DMX and Mickey Rourke.
The most handsome candidate for the U.S. presidency has officially dropped out of the race.
"I'm not running now," actor Warren Beatty says in the new Vanity Fair, effectively ending the is-he-or-isn't-he? game surrounding his possible candidacy.
The celeb's spouse, meanwhile, potential Oscar nominee Annette Bening is also getting out the race -- the Hollywood rat race, that is. The "American Beauty" star -- pregnant with her fourth child by Beatty -- tells More magazine that she plans to take at least 18 months off from acting. She says the decision made her feel "kind of liberated."
No word if Beatty feels the same about his nonpresidential run. Even though he was never really in the race, Beatty created a stir late last summer when he hinted to The New York Times that he may be ready for a new (presidential) role.
But in the Vanity Fair interview published Monday, the 63-year-old actor/filmmaker finally put the flight-of-fancy to rest.
Beatty, whose reputation for insecurity about media coverage is well known (as is his reputation for romancing his leading ladies, from Diane Keaton to Madonna), did not rule out vying for the Oval Office at a later date, however.
"I think the question is: Can I be more effective at another time? Whether that is in a year or two years, who knows?" he tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Peter Biskind.
A lifelong Democrat, Beatty tells the magazine that he considered running either on the Democratic or independent tickets but ultimately believed that if he failed in the political arena, it could be a setback for the "unfashionably liberal ideas" that he supports, including campaign finance reform. Still, he believes that his brief foray into politics, such as it was, has had a positive effect on the 2000 presidential campaign.
"I felt good about speaking up," Beatty says. "I wouldn't feel good if I hadn't. It seems to me that the effect has been positive, that I've not yet made too big a fool of myself -- at least I don't think I have."
Last fall, at the height of public interest in Beatty's possible candidacy, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled, "The Leadership Style of Warren Beatty," examining (just for fun) Beatty's track record as a Hollywood filmmaker for possible clues as to how he might run his campaign. Among the factoids published in the article were the following:
* Beatty's behind-the-scenes work on later films, including some he didn't direct (the 1987's bomb "Ishtar"), "earned him a reputation as one of Hollywood's most controlling, difficult and self-indulgent filmmakers."
* Colleagues say he "can take forever to make decisions and often second-guess everyone," and he is "notorious for taking over direction of movies he stars in."
* Beatty's 1990 film "Dick Tracy" was cited by Jeffrey Katzenberg in his famous "internal memo" as the kind of out-of-control movie that studios shouldn't make anymore.